While I’ve always had a desire to share my experience with anorexia, the opportunity had never really presented itself, nor did I have the drive to create one. However, when I read the interview with Jessica, I was urgently compelled to write in and offer my story, too. My experience was far different; what worked for Jessica did not work for me.
My hope is that I can offer another perspective that may resonate for others who are struggling with an eating disorder.
I can recall the exact moment that the switch flipped in my brain.
I was 11 years old. Sitting on the couch eating crackers, this sinister, twisted twin of my inner voice told me that if I didn’t eat as much, my stomach wouldn’t stick out (which was, as I found out later, due to food intolerances – not overindulgence). I put the crackers away and subconsciously devoted every moment of the next 15 years to starving myself.
I never thought I was fat, but eating less does tend to have that, um, pesky little side effect of weight loss. Though mine was barely perceptible at first, I was a really active kid who was pretty lean to begin with, so I didn’t have a lot of weight to lose before it got dangerously low. Shortly after my 14th birthday, I was hospitalized for the first of over a dozen times.
For the first couple of inpatient stints, I was perfectly compliant. I ate when and what I was told to, stayed put in my bed (so as not to expend any extra energy), and didn’t cause any trouble. When I realized that I could fight back, however, things got ugly. I began to refuse food and insisted on standing and moving around constantly. When threatened with naso-gastric tube feedings, I would physically fight the nurses and throw things around. Such struggles would often end with me in restraints, heavily sedated.
When I had exhausted all treatment options in the country, the government paid for me to get help in the U.S. (Private facilities there can cost upward of $1000 per day.) After spending 6 months at a residential program in Arizona, I was in a pretty good place. Not “cured”, but stable. A relapse followed about 5 years later, and consequently a few more hellish hospital stays.
After that, another shift happened: I started seeing a life coach and became a holistic nutritionist. Those two factors enabled me to begin to truly recover on my own terms. My coach helped me learn to respect and nourish myself on all levels, while my nutrition schooling gave me the knowledge and confidence to help others in the same way.
Three years later, things still aren’t perfect, and I don’t expect they ever will be. The difference now is that I am more conscious of my reactions to stress and am able to choose something different. I still have intense general anxiety, though acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, and creative pursuits such as singing help. But what keeps me going more than anything is a desire to help others who have similar struggles, and I can’t do that if I myself am not healthy.
For anyone else going through an eating disorder, the best advice I can offer is to find something that matters more than the illness. Channel the edge into something positive.
If you would like to connect with Vanessa please feel free to message her directly with any questions you might have: firstname.lastname@example.org.